Cal Performances Joffrey Ballet 4 Cheryl Mann

Joffrey Ballet at Cal Performances is Dynamic!

Above: Pictured: The Joffrey Ballet performs Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Mammatus, Friday–Sunday, November 17–19, 2017 in Zellerbach Hall. (credit: Cheryl Mann)

Pictured: The Joffrey Ballet performs Justin Peck’s In Creases,
Friday–Sunday, November 17–19, 2017 in Zellerbach Hall. (credit: Cheryl Mann)

The acclaimed Joffrey Ballet from Chicago presented a program of four different dance pieces November 17, 18 and 19, 2017, produced by Cal Performances at Zellerbach Hall. This is the beginning of a five-year collaboration between Joffrey Ballet and Cal Performances exploring the creative process through new commissions to include a series of community events with a dance class, public forum and open sessions with choreographers and Joffrey dancers.

This program contains a wide variety of choreography, showcasing the high quality work of the company admirably, offering fine dance, fascinating choreography and unexpected visual stories.

In Creases choreographed by Justin Peck, set to music by Philip Glass, Four Movements for Two Pianos, played live onstage by Grace Kim and Matthew Long, opens the evening. Eight dancers in white and off white combinations of leotards, with narrow black edging on the female dancers (costume design by Justin Peck) lithely dance gracefully in ever changing combinations. They form shapes and dissolve them just as fast. Partnering, pirouettes and a wonderful pulsating duet (Jeraldine Mendoza & Christine Rocas) en pointe is fresh and fun. At the end of the first section there is a beautifully vulnerable brief solo moment by Rory Hohenstein. The ensemble dances evoke imagery and wit as the formations change and the piece builds with elegance and vigor.

Encounter, a West Coast premiere is a pas de deux with dancers Victoria Jaini and Alberto Velasquez, choreographed by Nicolas Blanc, set to music by John Adams from his Saxophone Concerto. The dance is well performed with interesting sinewy movement, unusual turns and creative counter balances. It is a seductive piece and the two dancers transport us into their world trough the fascinating push-pull in their movement, suggesting an interesting agreement and disagreement in their abstract storytelling. Lighting design by Alexander V. Nichols complements the piece with a range of colorful effects.

Pictured: The Joffrey Ballet performs Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Mammatus  (credit: Cheryl Mann)

Annabelle Lopez Ochoa choreographed Mammatus set to music by Michael Gordon: Weather One. After a neon storm a group of dancers in black long sleeve leotards and knee high black socks perform precise steps and swift turns. This is a dramatic piece performed with dynamic energy and taut movement, enhanced by sculptural arms and hands. Costume and scenic design by Dieuweke van Reij and lighting design by Alexander V. Nichols complement the atmosphere perfectly. The twenty dancers separate from the ensemble to perform emotive duos and trios. Male and female sequences have the same equality of movement and strong storylines, and the detail and precision of the head movement suggests the bird-like imagery throughout. Flourishes such as turning a dancer and lifting her diagonally with one arm are exciting – these athletic dancers are as graceful as muscular. The dance is always flowing – towards a very beautiful ending.

Pictured: The Joffrey Ballet performs Alexander Ekman’s Joy,
Friday–Sunday, November 17–19, 2017 in Zellerbach Hall. (credit: Cheryl Mann)

Joy, a West Coast premiere and Cal Performances co-commission,  choreographed by Alexander Ekman and set to the following music: Brad Mehldau, Since I Fell for You; Django Django, First Light; Tiga, Shoes; Moby, LA5. is creative and free.

Dancers walk, run, skid and do cartwheels across the huge stage showing the back walls and open sides of the theatre! A large living tree is onstage and about twenty five dancers appear wearing flesh costumes (costume, lighting and scenic design by Alexander Ekman). Voice over and spoken word provokes us to think about what we are seeing and is it joy? Bare foot female dancers carry their pointe shoes with satin ribbons flowing and then each drops her shoes on the floor. Next, a neon pink flamingo descends and we are off on this wonderful journey with the Joffrey Ballet. The energy and mood of this piece develops with the ensemble undulating sideways, leaps and flamingo movement motifs. Victoria Jaiani and Alberto Velazquez are featured in a beautifully danced duet and Hansol Jeong dances an exquisite solo. The atmosphere is like carnival in Brazil, visually compelling, danced with graceful gazelle jumps, humor, twerks and quivering steps – by the end all cavorting in bliss!

The Joffrey Ballet distinguishes itself with this program of quality dance and imaginative innovative variety. Highly recommended!

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Jo Tomalin, Ph.D. reviews Dance, Theatre & Physical Theatre Performances
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About the Author

Jo TomalinOriginally from England Jo Tomalin is currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she is a reviewer for Dance & Theatre at www.ForAllEvents.com & www.FringeReview.com - she works in the performing arts as a freelance movement & voice specialist, director + actor. She is also a Professor in the School of Theatre & Dance at San Francisco State University, teaching Movement for actors, Voice, Storytelling, Business of Acting and Acting and directs. Jo Tomalin studied Classical Acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), London; and holds a teacher's diploma (ATCL) in Voice and Acting from Trinity College of Dramatic Art, London. She studied Classical Ballet for 12 years; Graduated from London University's Laban Centre Teaching Credential program in Modern Dance, Art of Movement & Choreography; Trained in Physical Theatre, Masks, Scenography and Devised theatre at the renowned professional acting school "Ecole Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq" Paris, France. Jo holds a Master of Science degree in Educational Technology from Boise State University and a Ph.D. in Education with a specialization in Instructional Design for Online Learning from Capella University, MN.View all posts by Jo Tomalin →